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EPA Trying to Confuse Public on Impact of Keystone Pipeline

May 3, 2013 in Economics

By Paul C. "Chip" Knappenberger

Paul C. “Chip” Knappenberger

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently got in a rather public spat with the U.S. Department of State over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project. Apart from the irregularity of one Cabinet agency attacking another, the episode was a boondoggle for the EPA, which came out looking both petty and unscientific.

In a letter to the State Department, the EPA contends that the State Department (which has the ultimate say in the whether or not the pipeline gets the green light) did not accurately assess the magnitude of the carbon dioxide emissions that would result from the burning of the 830,000 barrels of oil the pipeline would transport each day.

It’s important to point out that a barrel of oil extracted from Canada’s tar sands produces about 17 percent more carbon dioxide emissions than the average barrel of oil refined in the United States. However, that extra 17 percent does not come from the oil itself, but from the energy-intensive manner in which it is mined. This emissions premium will almost certainly shrink over time as new technologies are developed to more efficiently extract the oil.

The recent spat with the State Dept. was a boondoggle for the EPA, which came out looking both petty and unscientific.”

The concern is how much of this extra carbon dioxide will find its way into the atmosphere because of the pipeline. The State Department concludes that the tar sands oil will come to market whether or not Keystone XL is ever built, meaning the pipeline would result in a minimal production of carbon dioxide that otherwise would not have occurred.

The EPA, on the other hand, argues that absent the pipeline, the oil will largely remain in the ground. Therefore, building the pipeline will cause the extraction of oil, with the end result being the emission of an extra 18.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.

That sounds like a lot. But herein lies the EPA’s prevarication. Typically, when gauging “climate impacts,” as the EPA claims is its “focus” in the letter, emissions are put into a computer model to determine how they would actually impact the climate. Taking that extra step isn’t hard. The EPA didn’t do it. In fact, climate models are designed precisely to provide information about how emissions affect the climate, and are the primary source of projections of future global warming resulting from …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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